PRESTON — The Bears That Care toy drive for 2021 is underway, and this year, there’s a new twist. A blood donation day in memory of longtime Bears That Care volunteer and leader Dawn Jones is planned from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 4 at Preston Volunteer Fire Department.

Jones is a former Caroline County Emergency Services dispatcher who died this past January following a decades long battle with pulmonary hypertension. Last Christmas was her final year to participate in the toy drive.

“When the toy drive started years ago, mom got involved and started doing adoptions so kids got things on their wish list instead of just random toys that were donated,” said daughter Heather Jones.

The blood drive began two years, Heather said because when Dawn was in the hospital for an extended time, she required multiple blood transfusions. “She wanted to give back and we wanted to keep it up in her memory.”

Heather added, “Anyone that knew Dawn (mom) knows how passionate she was about giving back blood, playing a huge role in the toy drive each year to make sure as many kids as possible had a good Christmas and, as always, supporting local volunteers and fire departments.”

“On Dec. 4, you can do all three,” she said, noting Preston Volunteer Fire Department will have food for sale during the blood drive. Donations for the toy drive will be accepted on Dec. 4 as well.

This season the volunteers are collecting new, unused toys for children, ages infant to 13.

The Bears That Care toy drive was a success for 2020. During the holiday season the toy drive was able to assist more than 400 families, reaching 950 children. With the help of the community and local law enforcement agencies, each child was able to have a wonderful Christmas, according to coordinator Shelly Webster.

Toys also were donated to the pediatric hospital wards in Easton and Salisbury, local churches and shelters.

The application period for children to be adopted for Christmas has ended, but those that we can’t get adopted we still fill bags for from the donated toys and shop for them with any monetary donations, so they still have something for Christmas, Jones added.

The deadline for toys to be donated is Dec. 15. Items needed include new, unwrapped toys and new jackets, gloves and hats for local children whose families are in need this Christmas.

Preston Ford will match every bike donated. Bikes can be dropped off at Preston Ford, 4313 Preston Road, Hurlock.

Donations are also are accepted 24 hours a day at the Maryland State Police Easton Barracks, 7053 Ocean Gateway.

To adopt a child/family this year, email bearsthatcaretoydrive@gmail.com.

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